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Return Flight Part 1: Monday, August 7, 2017

Giant goddess

On our way from Ubud to Denpasar, we passed this gigantic statue in a round about. I don’t know what it is supposed to be about.

After my visit to the Prapen silver factory, my host drove me out of Ubud and south to the airport at Denpasar. I paid him for the ride (400,000 rupiah) and the two days’ room (800,000 rupiah) I was down to about 175,000 rupiah. I had no trouble going through the first security checkpoint, then checked in at the Garuda desk. I had to pay 270,000 rupiah by credit card (about $20) for my 10 kg extra weight (I had redistributed some things to try to carry on as much weight as possible – hard on my shoulders, easier on my pocketbook). After checking my bags, paying the extra, and getting my boarding passes I went through internal security and walked to Gate 2.

Bali coastline from air

The coastline of Bali near Denpasar. I never did get to the beach, but that wasn’t why I came. The large mountain looming in the distance is either Gunung Agung in eastern Bali or Gunung Rinjani on nearby Lombok. It’s hard to tell with the cloud deck.

I had plenty of time – I could have seen or done one other thing before coming to the airport, but I am tired and ready to go home and I was ready to head to the airport. I’ve seen and done many things in the last 3 ½ weeks, as much as I can possibly expect from myself. I knew that I couldn’t do everything I wanted to do in Bali with only two days; the traffic, winding roads, and my own age prevented me from seeing everything on my bucket list. I am satisfied that I did as much as I could do and saw the very best things. I can’t ask for more.

Bali coastline with boat

The reefs and beaches of Bali below.

I was getting hungry again. My appetite has been iffy these four weeks, mostly because I have been backed up. Of all the medicines I brought, I didn’t think constipation would be my biggest problem. So I knew if I was hungry, I should eat. I found a place called Beard Papas that served one thing only: cream puffs. That sounded good, and I had enough money left. I got one and a Pulpy Orange drink, and it was really good – the best cream puff I’ve ever had. So I stood in line again and had another. But that still wasn’t enough, so I had fish and chips at a place near Gate 2. The fries were good, the fish a bit different.

Towns and rice from air

Rice fields and towns from the air (approaching Jakarta). Some areas are clear (brownish) because they are between crops for a few weeks. Indonesian farmers can harvest two crops per year.

Note: Two weeks after returning home, someone tried to use my credit card information to get cash advances in Denpasar. The company flagged the purchases as suspicious and we cancelled the card. The only legitimate charge I have on the card in Denpasar is the restaurant I ate the fish and chips at (Hari’s) in the airport. I still have the card; it wasn’t stolen, so the card’s information must have been copied. The techniques for doing this have become quite sophisticated. But just in case, be careful dining here or anywhere you use a credit card. Pay cash if you can. Use a mylar reflective shield in your wallet with your credit card on the inside so that people can’t scan your card as you walk by.

Rice fields approaching Jakarta

Rice fields and villages approaching the airport at Jakarta on my last day in (or over) Indonesia.

I waited at the gate and worked on cleaning up photos from Friday’s excursions. I was able to e-mail Becca and tell her I was at the airport and ask her to look into the Booking.com problem. Then I thought I heard them call to board the plane, even though we were a good 30 minutes before the specified boarding time. The lady at the gate confirmed it was time, so I walked down the jetway and boarded the plane. I was in row 31, which is an emergency exit row, which I had entirely to myself. It was great.

Astronaut hydrant painting

Red fire hydrants are mounted at intervals along the white walls of the Jakarta airport concourse. Someone has painted whimsical murals that incorporate the hydrants, such as this Apollo astronaut on the Moon.

The flight itself was peaceful. I’m getting used to flying Garuda Indonesia. They may be a bit more expensive than some, but still cheap at about $100 for each of these intra-Indonesian flights. I saw Mt. Bromo again, then we turned more north and away from the volcanoes, out over the ocean, and back toward Jakarta. I listened to the Best of Bad Company. Somehow it seemed appropriate while flying.

Monster hydrant

A luggage monster eating a fire hydrant.

I got some nice views of rice fields in the late afternoon as we turned into Jakarta and landed. It was a bit of a hike from our entry gate to the baggage claim area, and I noticed some fun murals painted around each of the fire extinguishers, incorporating them into the design, such as using it as the tip of a lipstick or a scuba tank or the backpack of an astronaut or the body of a spaceship. I took photos, of course.

Spaceship hydrant

A fire hydrant turned into a space ship. This is my favorite of the murals in the Jakarta airport.

Lipstick hydrant

A fire hydrant turned into red lipstick for Marilyn Monroe’s lips (I know because of the mole . . . )

I walked out of the departure area, then took an elevator upstairs to the drop off zone and went through security again. I am on a Delta flight through Korean Air Lines to Seoul, a seven-hour flight that won’t take off until 10:05 pm. The KAL check-in desk wasn’t even open yet, so I sat in an area near the international check-in and plugged in my computer while working on the photos from Friday. I can’t get onto the Internet, so Becca will have to wait to hear from me until Korea. When the desk opened at 7:00, I checked in – my flights were listed. Yay! After the United fiasco, I was worried. I was happy to drop off my two bags – I even added some extra weight to them – and I’ll see them again in Salt Lake in two days. I have 21 hours of flying altogether and another 17 hours of layover time. It will be a long two days.

Balloons hydrant

A fire hydrant as helium tank for filling balloons. These murals were made in the Jakarta airport in order to dress up the mundane fire hydrants placed along the concourse of Terminal 3.

I don’t know if I will ever return to Indonesia. It will be dark when I take off tonight, so I won’t see anything. Those rice fields were my last view. I will miss this place, but it is definitely time to go home. Over the next few posts, I’ll try to summarize and synthesize what I’ve learned from this experience. I hope I have the chance to come back here, and bring my wife and children with me. But coming here at all was the slimmest of crazy chances, and there are other places I’ve never been that I want to see first. I think of what was new and exciting when I landed four weeks ago, and how I’ve grown accustomed to many things. I hardly notice mosques or hijabs any more, until I didn’t see them in Bali. I’m very glad I had the chance to extend and see more of Indonesian culture, because what I’ve seen and done in Jogja and Bali will enrich my life and my teaching forever. There is still much to learn here, and much to experience.

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Bali Day 2: Sunday, August 6, 2017

David on side stairway

David Black on the side steps leading up to Besakih Temple in Bali, Indonesia.

Although I could have stayed on the edge of the caldera looking at Gunung Batur forever, we had one more place to visit on our tour: Besakih Temple, the Mother Temple of all Bali.

Snake fruit and oranges

A fruit stand selling oranges, snake fruit, and bananas on the way to Besakih Temple.

Gusti had done well answering my questions about the shrines and temples we passed this morning, and now we were going to visit my first major Hindu religious site on Bali. We got back into the car (after I bought a small bag of oranges to try) and drove down ridgelines through small towns, gradually rounding the mountain until we got to the bottom foothills. I had no idea exactly where on Bali we were, but had the feeling that not many tourists got this far. That suited me just fine.

David at Besakih steps

The main steps to Besakih Temple, which only believers are allowed to use. I had to climb up some side steps. Wearing a sarong is required to enter the temple grounds. Gusti had to show me how to tie it properly. This temple is the mother temple to the rest of Bali.

From a distance it is hard to see Besakih Temple because its pagodas and walls are so old and covered in vegetation that they blend into the basic mountainside. We stopped at one of many parking lots and were immediately besieged by people selling souvenirs and sarongs. All Hindu temples require a sarong on Bali, and I had already purchased one the day before. Gusti and a lady selling postcards helped me correctly tie my sarong on; it was a bright aqua colored batik print, and with my ice-dyed blue shirt, I must have stood out. Gusti walked with me up to the foot of the temple, walking along a pathway through fruit stands selling snake fruit, oranges, bananas, and durian (which I could smell from a distance). He told me that only Hindu believers are allowed to walk up the central staircase or go inside the temples, but that tourists could see inside through the gates and could reach the top via a side staircase. We took some photos at the bottom of the main stairs, then worked our way around to the side entrance.

11-step pagoda

The main temple pagodas have eleven levels representing the eight cardinal directions and top, middle, and bottom. From the side stairs we could see into the main temple courtyard.

Walking in the sarong was difficult. I kept tripping as I walked up the stairs, and finally had to hold up my skirt as I have seen ladies do. Since everyone was wearing one, I did not feel out of place. I’m sure the vendors around the temple were charging much higher prices than what I had paid the day before.

David before mother temple

On the lawn leading to the main stairway into Besakih Temple. This far up in the mountains, the air is fairly cool, and there are fewer tourists than at most Hindu sites around Kuta or Ubud.

The temple complex was huge, with walled compounds that Gusti said were family clan temples. They surrounded the main courtyard and largest temples of the central complex. There were large pagodas with eleven stories, which Gusti explained represented the eight points of the compass plus top, center, and bottom. Believers in white shirts and gold hats and sarongs were placing offerings and praying inside the main courtyard, and everywhere the dark stone walls were green with mosses and grass.

Besakih temple from above

The temple complex as seen from above.

Gusti showed me large photos of one of the biggest ceremonies held here. Each year, the people of the local town dress in the white and gold clothing and take out the shrines of the Hindu gods, carrying them on their shoulders all the way to the ocean, where they go through a purification rite before being carried back up to the temple. The photos showed a huge procession winding its way to the sea. Other ceremonies are held only once per generation, going back hundreds of years.

Pagoda and flowers

Temple pagoda and bougainvillea flowers. The entire complex is divided into separate areas and temples for each of the major families of Bali. Gusti said his family has a temple here, too.

We walked up the side stairway and peaked into the various courtyards. This complex has some 32 clan temples and a number of larger temples, and is truly a huge area. Yet it doesn’t seem huge, because it blends in so well with its surroundings. Everywhere I pointed my camera, the photos were gorgeous.

Gusti told me that this was the central and highest level of temple in Bali. It was at the foot of the sacred mountain. At the next level down were the four regional temples at the four primary directions, with Tanah Lot in the south. These temples were under the administration of Besakih. Then each city or town had at least three community temples that were under the regional temples. Finally, each household had its own family temple or shrine.

Green temple vista

The lush green grass and plants at Besakih Temple in Bali, Indonesia.

Gusti was great at taking many photos of me and at explaining the ceremonies of these temples. I was surprised that a place so sacred was also open to tourists. There were restrictions, but I got to see inside all of the areas. I didn’t see many westerners, but there were some Indonesians walking up the stairs with me. Most of the people here were believers and came up the middle stairs; the central courtyard was pretty busy. So although it was mildly crowded, most of the people here weren’t tourists. That made my experience that much more pleasant.

Worshippers in courtyard

A view into the main courtyard, where worshippers kneel before the main pagodas.

It was humid but nicely cool this far up the mountain and very refreshing. Even though I had climbed a large number of stairs, I wasn’t tired. But it had been a long day, and by the time I got back to the car I was ready to head back to Ubud. I took off my sarong and climbed into the car and we started down the mountain.

Shrines to the sea

Portable shrines in the Besakih Temple. Once per year, they are carried by hand from here all the way to the beach to perform a purification rite. The local villagers dress in white and make quite the procession.

I dozed off, but we came to a winding road down a cliff with incredible views. I wasn’t able to get a good photo through the trees along the road, and could only catch glimpses. Once we reached the valley floor it was late afternoon and the hills and mountains glowed in the sunlight with a breathtaking green beyond the rice fields. Some of my photos through this area turned out very well.

David above temple in sarong

David Black at the top of Besakih Temple in Bali, Indonesia.

The towns became larger and more numerous. We passed groups of school children marching, practicing for Indonesian Independence Day. We came into Ubud from the south and passed the Monkey Forest Temple on our way to the center of town. We drove down Jalan Kajeng to my bungalow. I had already paid Gusti and the driver when we started out, a total of $155 U.S., but I gave them a decent tip as this had been an extraordinary day, well worth the money.

Temples and flowers above

Flowers and pagodas at Besakih Temple.

I was getting hungry again but was too tired to walk into town, so I ate the last of my snacks and some of the oranges. I tried to get on Google Hangout with Becca and the boys, but our timing was off and I fell asleep. Once I woke up again, I spent the remainder of the evening uploading photos. I had taken hundreds and lots of video just today. I also started to repack my things in anticipation of leaving Indonesia tomorrow.

Bali Hai scene

A perfect photo of the Balinese countryside on my way back to Ubud.

I will be sad to go, with so many thing left to see and do. But I’ve been here for nearly four weeks and I miss my family. It’s time to go home.

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Bali Day 1: Saturday, August 5, 2017

Bali sunset

Twilight in Bali Hai. I had a small role in my high school production of South Pacific, and this was as close to Bali Hai as I would ever get. At least, it was Bali.

On my first day in Bali, I had traveled from the airport to Ubud via taxi, put my bags in my room at the Ubud Wins Bungalow, and set out to explore the area and find lunch. When I returned, I was extremely tired and needed a nap.

I slept for at least two hours – I was more tired than I thought, and the air conditioning felt really good. By the time I woke up and got going again, it was just past sunset, which comes early in the tropics. I don’t have a clock in my room and my cell phone is turned off because I can’t get a network here, so I was guessing it was about 6:00. I decided to explore in the other direction of Kajeng Lane, heading away from the main part of town.

Flooded fields at evening

Twilight over the rice paddies in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

The lane takes a sharp left just at the entrance to the Ubud Wins Bungalows and passes around the temple across the street. About 20 yards further, it narrows into a motorcycle trail and travels up a hill to come out into an area of rice paddies. There is a well-known trail that leads up from Ubud into these paddies, but this is not that trail. It is lesser known, and just as nice, so it suited my purposes better.

Evening reflection

The twilight skies reflected in the rice paddies above Kajeng Lane in Ubud, Bali.

The twilight glow was deepening as I took some photos. It reminded me of the song “Bali Hai” from the musical South Pacific, which I performed in as a senior in high school. This is Bali, after all, and as for the Hai – well, at least it’s sunset and I could feel a Technicolor moment coming on. It truly was beautiful, and I took quite a few photos.

If there had been more light I would have pressed on and come back around the other, better known trail. But it was getting quite dark. There were streetlights out and a half-full moon, so I was able to walk back without difficulty. I continued on up the lane, because I could hear a gamelon orchestra playing up ahead. I wondered if it was the kacek flame dancers they were selling tickets to. But it was a group of men practicing in the community temple part way up the lane. I tried to get some video of them without their seeing, but they soon ended their practice.

Balinese sunset

Sunset over the rice paddies in Ubud, Bali.

I walked to the main street again and got some extra water at an Indomaret store, as I didn’t want to use the non-complimentary water in the mini-fridge in my room. I also got a Happy Cow ice cream bar, as I’m quite fond of them. I ate it sitting on a cement block while watching the tourists go by. Then I walked back to my bungalow and uploaded photos. I did a Google Hangout with my family and told them I had arrived safely, then I tried to read a book but fell asleep instead.

Neighborhood temple at night

I heard a gamelon orchestra practicing, so I followed the sound up Kajeng Lane to another neighborhood temple. It had towers lit up with interesting designs. The orchestra was finished practicing by the time I got there.

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Bali Day 1: Saturday, August 5, 2017

Stairs and papaya tree

The Ubud Wins Bungalows at the end of Kajeng Lane. This is a papaya tree growing in the courtyard. My bungalow overlooked the street and was above and to the right of this photo.

It was around noon that I arrived at my bungalow in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. I tried lying down for a bit to rest but had some trouble getting the air conditioner to work, which ran off of a remote control that wasn’t very intuitive. Not wanting to waste the day, and getting hungrier by the minute, I decided to walk into the main part of town and explore.

Temple out the window

The community temple across the street from my bungalow on Kajeng Lane.

Right across from my bungalow is a community temple with an inner courtyard for meetings and small statues lining the roof. The humidity and frequent rains have left the gray volcanic stone covered in lichens and green moss, with just a bit of color where gold or red paint has been applied or cloth tied around the statues of the gods. Everything here is green.

Dude, I can't believe your tongue

“Dude, I can’t believe your tongue!” An interesting decoration on the temple across the street from my bungalow.

I walked along Kajeng Lane with its interesting inscriptions in the cement panels. There were Balinese doorways leading into the courtyards of houses, and another larger community temple. A few shops lined the road, a touring company selling local tours and taxis to Denpasar, a restaurant or two, and a place selling souvenirs made by disabled people. After a 15 minute walk I arrived at the main street in Ubud.

Kajeng Lane

Walking up Kajeng Lane from the Ubud Wins Bungalows, about 15 minute walk to the main street of Ubud.

This street was packed with cars and motorcycles driven by tourists. I had been hoping for a quiet getaway for two days while I explored the arts and crafts here, but this is a busy town. I suppose it has changed because of the Julia Roberts movie, “Eat, Pray, Love” which takes place here. Now lots of people have “discovered” Ubud and turned it into another Kuta. People in the know say the place for peace and quiet is now Lombok. At least my bungalow is out of the way and not on the main road. To make the congestion worse, a funeral procession passed by with a group of men in traditional Balinese clothing carrying an urn and memorial to the deceased on a series of bamboo poles on their shoulders.

Ganesha through gateway

A Ganesha statue with morning offerings inside a family courtyard in Ubud.

I walked right at random and found a promising place selling gelato. I got a cup with coconut and lime flavors, and it was delicious. I sat on a bench outside a restaurant to eat it, and talked with a lady and her husband from Australia who were here for ten days. I asked where a good place for lunch was, and she gestured to the restaurant behind us and said she had eaten an excellent tuna sandwich. I decided to try it out. Probably more expensive than some places, but the tuna sandwich was good. Instead of the usual tuna salad I’m used to, it was actually a grilled tuna steak. I also some pineapple juice. The best part was that it was just in front of the Saraswati Temple that I was looking for. My research into Ubud said the temple was a good place to visit and was behind the Starbucks, which I found was next door to the gelato place and I had missed it in the pleasure of eating the gelato.

David at Saraswati Temple Ubud

David Black at the Saraswati Temple in Ubud. I’m not sure what the lady on the stairs is doing. This temple is behind the Starbucks and is reached by a walkway through lilly ponds.

After the meal, I walked back to the temple and took photos. Two German ladies took my photo while I took theirs. So far, I haven’t met any Americans. The temple pathway lies between two lily ponds. I needed to wear a sarong to go inside the temple proper, so I walked further down the main street and found a beautiful blue-aqua sarong with gold highlights in a shop, again a bit more than I might have paid, but worth it. By the time I got back to the Saraswati Temple, it was closed. Oh well, I can use the sarong tomorrow for my trip to the Besakih Temple and it will be a nice gift for my wife.

Gate to Saraswati Temple

Gateway into the inner courtyard of the Saraswati Temple in Ubud. I wasn’t able to go inside because I didn’t have a sarong, so I went to find one and found a nice aqua sarong with gold accents. By the time I returned, the temple was closed.

I walked the other direction from Kajeng Lane and passed a large temple complex under construction, then a smaller community temple where people were gathering. I went inside and saw a group of young girls practicing a dance with metal plates (probably will be porcelain in the final performance). They are getting ready for Independence Day. I videotaped parts, because it was beautifully done.

Saraswati with lillies

The Saraswati Temple in Ubud, Bali as I saw it from the table where I ate lunch.

Girls practicing dance

Girls practicing a traditional Balinese dance in the courtyard of a neighborhood temple.

I crossed the main street and followed the flow of tourists into a shopping alley that paralleled the Monkey Temple road. Like Malioboro Street in Yogyakarta, this alleyway is lined with shops selling all sorts of tourist wares, everything from thumb organs to wooden male – uh – organs. Not sure what the appeal is there, but there were quite a few different styles available. I feel an obscure Star Trek reference coming on, about “maharong” and a wooden fertility figure. Win the prize (my appreciation) by telling me which of the 700+ episodes it is. The thumb organs were very nice, and I almost bought one but I am already out of room in my luggage.

Girls at end of dance

Girls at the end of their dance practice. Indonesian Independence Day was coming up in two weeks, and many groups were practicing in the local temples, which act as community centers.

But as I walked to the end of the alley I found a place selling rattan rice farmers’ hats. I looked at them, and the shop owner asked if I wanted to buy one. I said he probably didn’t have one in my size, but lo and behold he did. So I bought it. This will be the final Indonesian hat for my collection. He put it into a large plastic bag, and I figure I can tie it onto the outside of my TGC carry-on bag on the way home. At least I hope so.

Ubud traffic

Traffic and pedestrians mixing on the main street of Ubud. This was supposedly a quiet artist center, but the book and movie “Eat, Pray, Love” was based in Ubud and has turned it into a tourist destination. Traffic can be snarled, with all the tourists riding mopeds, especially when school gets out.

I walked back through a side alley to Monkey Temple Road, then back to the main drag. By this time I was tired and footsore, so I walked across the street and back to my bungalow for a nap. The humidity here is very high and it saps the energy right out of someone. I wanted to have enough left to go out at sunset.

Market lane and tourists

A lane to the east of Monkey Lane Road is a kind of open air market, similar to Malioboro Street in Yogyakarta but not as long or busy. I took a walk along it and found a rice farmer’s hat to buy.

Captain America puppets

Wooden puppets for sale on the market lane in Ubud. I like the Captain Americas. There were other interesting wooden items for sale as well, such as thumb pianos.

Durian and bananas

Yep. More durian fruit. I smelled it before I saw it. Notice the stubby bananas which are common here in Indonesia. If I hadn’t been repulsed by the durian, I would have bought some mangos even though they aren’t in season yet.

Checkered guardians

Guardians of the temple, wearing the checkered cloth that denotes wisdom. They also have parasols to ward off the sun and rain.

Stairs to pathway

A pathway to explore along Kajeng Lane. It’s hard to explain the feeling of Bali – it rains almost every day, and everything, even the stones and concrete, are covered in green lichen. Even newly built houses have the feel of ancient ruins because of the vivid jungle growth. Notice the yellow frangipani blossoms that have dropped from the trees above.

Balinese house gate 2

A gate into a household compound along Kajeng Lane.

Household gate

Gate into the inner courtyard of the Saraswati Temple in Ubud.

Statue at stairtop

All of the statues are covered with clothing, and small woven baskets with fruit and frangipani flowers are left each morning. This statue was at the top of stairways leading down into a deep canyon running through Ubud. One of the gelato shops I ate at is to the right.

Down stairs in Ubud

A stairway led down from the Ubud main street to this canyon running through the town. It gives you a feel for the depth of the terrain here.

Green lane

A view of Kajeng Lane in Ubud. The blocks of concrete have been signed by businesses and people as a promotional program when this lane was paved.

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Bali Day 1: Saturday, August 5, 2017

Prambanan from air

Prambanan temple complex as seen from the air on my flight to Bali from Yogyakarta.

My flight to Bali was fairly early, so I arranged for a taxi to pick me up at the Hotel Jambuluwuk at 6:15, giving me just enough time to eat breakfast. There wasn’t any of the excellent bread pudding this time, and I didn’t really eat much, but it was enough to tide me over. I checked out of the hotel and had to pay $25 for the Stroberi Fanta I had spilled on the carpet. I must have knocked it over in the middle of the previous night, and the lid wasn’t on as securely as it should have been. Their efforts to clean it had only been partly successful, and they would have to bring in some professionals to clean the spot. Mine wasn’t the only spot on the carpet, but it was the most obvious.

Ratu Boko from air

The hilltop palace of Ratu Boko, which I had visited the night before, as seen from my airplane on my flight to Bali.

The taxi drove me to the airport and I unloaded my bags and found a baggage cart to help me carry them inside. This airport is small and crowded and it took a few minutes to make it to the Garuda Indonesia counter, where my two checked bags were 11 kg overweight, total. I had to pay about $30 for the extra baggage fees, then worked my way through security. It was divided into three lines, but still took some time. I was glad I had given myself some extra time.

Jambuluwuk patio breakfast

My breakfast on the patio of the Jambuluwuk Hotel on my last morning in Yogyakarta.

I waited in the main lounge and wrote entries for these blogs on my computer. I almost failed to hear the final boarding call for my flight, and hurried to hand my boarding pass to the gate attendant and walked out onto the tarmac. My flight was a small jet and I was the second to the last person to board. I was located on the right side by a window with a good view.

Other temple from air

Prambanan isn’t the only temple complex in the area. This set of temples, called Candi Sewu, is a bit further northeast, as seen from my airplane window.

We taxied a short distance and turned around to face into the wind and revved up for take-off. We bounded off the tarmac and were airborne. I knew from seeing jets flying over Prambanan and Ratu Boko yesterday that I might be able to see both from this side of the airplane, so I watched carefully. I could see the Ratu Boko hilltop, and then we passed just to the left of Prambanan, so I had an excellent view out my window and took some photos. I also saw other temple complexes in the area; Prambanan is not alone. One temple that I saw below me is called the Candi Sewu.

Smoking volcanoes

We took off to the northeast and once we passed the line of volcanoes that form the spine of Java, we turned east-southeast and flew to the north of more volcanoes, a perfect view from my right side window.

But I have to admit some jealousy to the people on the left side of the plane, who got excellent views of Mt. Merapi as we passed by. We crossed the line of volcanoes that form the spine of Java, then turned east. I could see rice fields and roads below showing patterns of settlement; the houses and businesses lined the roads, then as smaller side roads were paved, the businesses and houses followed, with rice paddies just beyond. As we gained altitude, volcanoes showed their heads above the scattered clouds. Now I wasn’t jealous anymore, because I could now see each volcano clearly out my window as we passed it.

Mt. Bromo caldera

I had an amazing view of the Gunung Bromo caldera with its smoking fumerole in the center. This would have produced more ash and dust than several Tambora-class explosions combined. The composite volcano cone in the background is Gunung Semeru .

The mountains form a chain, some giving off puffs of smoke. We approached a larger volcano than the others, lying behind a large circular caldera with a central column of smoke. This must be Gunung Bromo. I took several good photos of it as we passed.

We then came to the eastern coast of Java. Beaches and headlands stretched below. In the center of one island there was a narrow strait bisecting the island. I could see pulses of waves entering the strait and traveling along it, emerging out the other side of the island. It would be quite a view to be down there overlooking the thin passage.

Bromo Caldera and Semeru

This is the same view as my flight from Google Earth, only without clouds. The caldera is rather squarish, with a no-man’s land of fumeroles and barren plains surrounding the active vents. Mt. Semeru in the background.

Fluffy white cumulus clouds gathered as we crossed the strait between Java and Bali. I saw a small jet below us turning before the banks of clouds as it started its approach into Denpasar Airport. We turned and followed it in. I took some videos of the amazing clouds as we dropped toward the island.

Java coastline

The southeastern coastline of Java as we crossed to Bali. This area is a Taman Nasional (national park).

On our approach to the airport I could see the beaches and resorts here on the southeastern flank of the island. Inland, there was a large structure under construction; I learned later that it was a huge statue of Buddha, which will be the largest statue in the world when it is done. If it is ever done. They’ve been building it for twenty years, and there’s been a great deal of cost overruns and possibly some corruption along the way. Supposedly that has all been smoothed over and the statue is scheduled to be completed next year.

Coastal islands slit

The thin strait through the center of the island to the left was interesting – the waves coming from the south (top in this photo) traveled slowly through the strait. It would be fun to be down there and see it – no doubt very beautiful. There are so many places in this world to explore!

The plane landed smoothly and we taxied to the main terminal. We climbed down the small stairway built into the plane and walked across the tarmac to the building, passing through an ornate gateway colored orange and white. A sign said, “Welcome to the last paradise on Earth.” I hoped it was right.

Clouds over Bali

We flew through some incredibly fluffy cumulus, following another plane down to the airport at Denpasar on Bali.

In the main terminal I found a baggage cart (wheels are a wonderful thing) and claimed my bags at the luggage carousel. Everything went smoothly, and I walked outside to look for a taxi to take me to Ubud.

Bali airport

After landing at Denpasar, we taxied to the terminal and climbed down the stairs to walk into the main building. This airport is more modern than the one in Yogyakarta and serves as an international hub.

I negotiated a bit with the driver, who said it would take two hours to get there because the traffic is bad. I settled for 400,000 rupiah as the fee, or about $30 US. Maybe going on the meter would have been better, or maybe not, because he was right about the two hours. This is about what I would pay for a shuttle from Salt Lake to Orem, where I live, so even though high by Bali standards, I was OK with it. As it turned out, the driver earned every rupiah.

We drove out of the airport and headed north on one of the roads to Ubud, which is a cultural center further north from the busy, touristy southern beaches around Kuta and Denpasar. Although laying on a tropical beach sounds great, I didn’t come all this way to lay around. I wanted to learn about Bali, and Ubud sounded like the best headquarters from which to do that. I had found an inexpensive bungalow for only $26 per night, with excellent reviews.

Gate to paradise

We walked through this traditional Balinese gate to reach the terminal. It represents the path through the sacred mountain. Architecture is quite different here than on Java or Borneo.

The traffic up this road was slow. I found out later that there are wider and better roads, but this one was the most direct. As we crawled along, I dozed a bit, but eventually started paying more attention once we got out of the city proper. There were many small businesses along the road, many of them in this area carving stone statutes of Buddhas in various poses. I saw shrines clothed with gold or black and white checkered cloth. There seemed to be lots of small temples, and everything was covered in green moss, grasses, and lichens. There were also places carving large cross-sections of trees into wood sculptures, some making elaborate tables, others carvings of Hindu gods and goddesses.

Last Paradise

This sign welcomed us to the paradise of Bali. It may be a bit of an overstatement (there are still other paradises) but it was still nice to see that I had arrived.

The traffic was unrelenting until we finally took some narrow side roads. The driver was getting frustrated, as this was taking longer than he thought and he was missing out on other fares. There wasn’t anything I could do about it; apparently, tourism has reached Ubud because of the book and movie Eat, Pray, Love about a journalist that found love here. Julia Roberts starred in the movie. It sounds like a chick flick to me, but maybe I’ll have to watch it just to see the places I will recognize. Now everyone comes here. And I thought I was being smart about staying away from the party scene in Kuta.

Wooden faces

After getting my luggage at the baggage claim, I found a cart and wheeled everything outside, where I negotiated with a taxi to drive me to Ubud, about 40 miles away in the interior of Bali. I didn’t want to get stuck in the touristy parts of Kuta and Denpasar, as I was here to learn about history and culture, not hang out on the beaches. On the way to Ubud the traffic was slow and it took close to two hours to reach Ubud and find my bungalow. On the way, we passed many shops such as this one carving Hindu sculptures, or statues from volcanic ash, or many other types of souvenirs.

It turns out that Ubud isn’t just one compact town but is more of an area of interconnected villages with a network of winding roads that are little better than paths. It reminded me of Kota Gede. After some wandering around through hills and rice paddies and along narrow roads, we came to what appeared to be the main part of town, at least according to the many foreign tourists and motorcycle renters. We found the entrance to the lane my bungalow is on: Jalan Kajeng. It was barely wide enough for one car, but we squeezed in and traveled along it. My printout of the Ubud Wins Bungalow did not give a house number, so we kept driving up the alleyway. The driver finally stopped and asked someone, at the only place in the road wide enough to stop. The person said to keep going; the bungalow was at the end of the lane. We finally found a small sign on a wall just before the road took a sharp left turn.

Large statue at roundabout

Large statue inside a round about on the road leading north out of Denpasar.

The owner’s wife and son saw my taxi arrive and came down to take my larger bags. I paid my driver a good tip, and that brightened his expression. The Ubud Wins Bungalows are built on the side of a steep hill with tall stairs made of green-covered concrete leading up about 30 feet around a family shrine and a papaya tree, then over and down to my corner room. Just carrying my carry-on bags was very difficult up the slippery stairs. I don’t know how her son managed my large red bag.

Buddha statues

A workshop specializing in stone carvings of the Buddha. Most Balinese are Hindu or Buddhist, with Islam being a minority religion here.

My room had a porch in front with couch and chairs, then a large glass door and window into a big room with a bed and dresser and tiled floor. I brought in my bags and tried to figure out the air conditioner (I finally got it working later that night). I was tired and lay down to get some rest before venturing out to explore Ubud.

Reclining Buddha

More stone statues of the Buddha at a workshop on the road to Ubud, Bali.

I was in paradise, the legendary Bali of song and story. It just didn’t feel quite like it yet!

Rice farmer on bicycle

A rice farmer on a bicycle passes a family compound flying the red and white Indonesian flag. His conical hat is the traditional hat of rice farmers in Bali. I have to get me one of those!

Family shrine

A household shrine. Notice that shrines are wrapped in cloth. The gold represents prosperity, the white and black checked cloth represents wisdom and that there are good and bad aspects in all things.

Balinese side road

There were narrow side roads leading away which invited me to explore. I already knew that two days wouldn’t be nearly enough time here.

Bali paradise

The sign said that we were visiting paradise, and everything was green. Even the rocks and cement were growing green lichens on them.

Gate to household

A traditional gateway leading to a family compound in Bali.

Stairway to heaven

Arriving in Ubud, we passed this stairway leading up through a gateway that represents the path through the sacred mountain. The man is wearing traditional Balinese clothes: a white shirt, a sarong (wraparound skirt), and a turban style cap.

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And notes on my TGC Seminar Trip: Feb. 16, 2017.

tgc-sign

Sign for Teachers for Global Classrooms, a teacher exchange program of the U. S. Department of State. We met in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 16-18, 2017 to prepare for our international experiences.

I’m in the Salt Lake International Airport waiting for my flight to Washington Reagan National Airport. It’s been almost a year since I last visited D.C., and that was for the Einstein Fellowship interviews that I did not succeed at. That was a nice trip, with good weather, even if the results were disappointing. I’m hoping the weather will be all right. It is supposed to be in the 50s during the day, not that I’ll get any chance to be out by day. This is a quick trip – a reception tonight, followed by a full day of meetings tomorrow and a half day Saturday morning, then I have to get to the airport for my 5:00 flight home.

I am looking forward to meeting my cohort of fellow teachers who will be traveling with me to Indonesia in July. When I found out in December that I would be traveling to Indonesia, I started researching all the possibilities, knowing that I couldn’t get to all of them, but wanting to learn as much as possible. The more I study the country, the more excited I become. There are so many great places to visit there that are scenic, scientific, and cultural. If I were to rank the places I would most like to visit, it would be in this order:

Indonesia greatest hits

Locations of my top picks for things to see in Indonesia.

Borobudur

Borobudur, an 8th Century Buddhist temple near Yogyakarta, Indonesia and a World Heritage Site.

  1. Yogyakarta and Surroundings: This is a cultural center on the island of Java that has been described as the “soul” of Indonesia. It is famed for its marketplaces selling silver, batik, shadow puppets, and the local gudeg, a type of stew served with rice. About an hour north is the famed Buddhist site called Borobudur, built in the 8th century and lost to the jungle for many years before its re-discovery in the 1800s. It is built over an earthen mound in the shape of a mandala, with hundreds of stupas containing statues of various forms of the Buddha as well as hundreds of carved relief panels depicting Gautama’s life.
    Prambanan

    Prambanan, a Hindu temple near Yogyakarta.

    Nearby is the Hindu complex of Prambanan, also with hundreds of small temples and statues of various Hindu gods ranging from Brahma through incarnations of Vishnu, Kali, Shiva, and Ganesha. The city of Yogyakarta was also the capital of a sultanate and has Islamic mosques. And as a bonus feature, not far north of the city is Gunung Merapi, a very active volcano that last erupted in 2010 and wiped out several villages. The Earth Science teacher in me would love to see that.

  1. Sulawesi and Surroundings:
    Bunaken-Manado

    The coral reefs of Bunaken near Manado, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

    This island is shaped like a giant cursive K with a curled top and boasts beautiful scenery and biological and cultural diversity. A TGC team stayed on North Sulawesi in Manado three years ago and had an amazing experience, including snorkeling at Bunaken, a series of islands off the north coast, and a visit to a national park with giant tarantulas and miniature primates. There are also the Toraja people, known for their inverted boat-shaped houses and interesting burial practices. It is also is the cacao growing center of Indonesia.

    Bali - corrected

    3D Rendering of Bali, a popular destination in Indonesia. The major city is Kuta on the peninsula to the south. I hope to explore Ubud in the hills in the center of the island.

  1. Bali or Lombok: This whole island is one beautiful, cultural paradise. Probably a bit too touristy for my taste, but it would be a shame to visit Indonesia without at least a day or two here. There are amazing white sand beaches, beautiful scenery including temples perched on rocks along the coast, the famous rice paddies near Ubud, a sacred monkey forest, and much more. If Bali is too busy, then the neighboring island of Lombok is a good alternative, including snorkeling and beachcombing on the Gili Islands and a visit to a sea turtle hatchery. And, of course, a large double caldera with the active Gunung Batur.
Bromo

Mt. Bromo (Gunung Bromo) on Java in Indonesia.

Toba Crater-s

3D Render of Toba Lake. The massive caldera has filled up with water. When it erupted 74,000 years ago, the ancestors of humanity almost went extinct from six years of winter without summers.

  1. Mt. Bromo or Other Active Volcanoes: A popular place to visit on Java and a series of active volcanoes, including Gunung Semeru, with incredible views. Of course, I would also like to see Tambora or Krakatau or even lake Toba. I realize no matter where I go, there will probably be active volcanoes galore (my kind of place) but it would be cool to visit the famous ones. Mt. Toba sent up so much ash, when it erupted 74,000 years ago, that it created six years without a summer in what was already an ice age. The ancestors of humanity almost went extinct.
Tambora from sky

The caldera of Gunung Tambora, which erupted in 1815 and caused the Year Without a Summer, which led to crop failures and starvation worldwide. The explosion of Toba 74,000 years ago was even worse – the dust lead to a six-year winter.

  1. Orangutan Watching: One place is a sanctuary called Bukit Lawang on Sumatra, not too far north of Lake Toba. But the original place is Kalimantan (Southern Borneo), where you can take small boats up a river to see the orangutans in the wild.
Komodo dragon

I would love to meet one of these. Just at a safe distance . . .

  1. Komodo Dragon Viewing: We will probably get to touch a real dragon at an international zoo/village in Jakarta, but it would be fun to see them in the wild on the island of Komodo itself.
Ambon

The city of Ambon in the Maluku Islands, where Columbus was trying to reach when he ran into a little problem . . .

  1. The Spice Islands: The Maluku or Banda Islands, which lie east of Sulawesi, are the original Spice Islands that caused so much history. Cloves, nutmeg, and pepper are native to these islands. It would be fun to say I’ve been where Columbus meant to go. Nearby are the Raja Ampat Islands with incredible marine biodiversity.

 

These are my top picks. I know I my not get the chance to see any of them – everywhere I’ve researched Indonesia, the possibilities are exciting and I’m sure I’ll enjoy wherever I get to go. I’ll learn a great deal, meet amazing people, and bring back memories for a lifetime.

Child of Krakatoa

Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatoa). This island exploded in 1883 and caused a tsunami that killed tens of thousands of people. Now the child is quietly growing in the submerged caldera.

Opening Reception:

My flight to D.C. went smoothly, and it was a new Boeing 757 with video players on the backs of each seat. Instead of pulling out my iPad and watching “Star Trek: Into Darkness” again, I watched the first episode of the National Geographic Mars program (they only had one episode available or I would have watched more), then saw “Dr. Strange” again, and began watching “Inferno” with Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones. It seemed like a quick flight.

I got off the plane and got my bag at Carousel 3, then picked up a taxi to the Fairmont Hotel near Georgetown. I walked downstairs and picked up my registration packet from Ashley and Sara with IREX. Sara will be travelling to Indonesia with us in July. I checked into my room and read through the packet, reading up on the biographies of my cohort.

Toba comparison

Putting these volcanoes side by side, the big historic eruptions of Tambora, Vesuvius, and Krakatoa are insignificant compared with Toba, which put so much dust into the stratosphere that it blocked sunlight for six years. And what of Mt. St. Helens? It’s a tiny popgun in comparison. Should it worry me that the three biggest known eruptions were all in Indonesia? Not at all. I would be like Pliny the Elder – last seen running toward Vesuvius as it erupted.

The opening reception was held on the lowest level in the ballrooms. Ryan Hagge and his wife were already there, with their new baby. He is acting in the stead of Scott Jones, our school director. He surprised her with a ticket to D.C. so she could explore while he was in the administrator meetings. I began to meet my cohort while eating horse doovers, including Jennifer from Louisiana with her administrator. I met Sonja, who is going to Senegal, and her administrator. Then after a few welcome remarks, we got together as groups and I met most of the rest of our cohort. They are a very diverse and interesting bunch, and I can tell that we will get along well. We have a mix of subjects, ranging from science, technology, ESL, migrant education, English, and social science as well as a range of grade levels. I also met Sofia, who is part of the TEA/ILEP program and will be one of our host teachers. She is from Ambon in the Maluku (Spice) Islands and she showed us some pictures. It looks amazing.

Wisata-Malioboro-Yogyakarta

Malioboro St. in Yogyakarta.

I am totally excited for this opportunity and what it will bring to my perspectives and what I can bring back for my students. What an adventure lies ahead of me!

I’ll report on the rest of my Symposium experience in the next post.

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